Author's Note: This article will contain spoilers for both the theatrical cut and the ULTIMATE EDITION cut of BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE.
I've always been a defender of BATMAN v SUPERMAN. Yes, it was a movie that had a myriad of flaws, but at the end of the day, I admired Zack Snyder's ambition to try something meaningful and unique, even if it stumbled along the way. While I can tout the visuals, themes, and interesting characterizations in a positive way, there is one thing I could never defend: the choppy narrative. No matter how many times I saw the movie in theaters (3), I couldn't deny the fact that the overall flow of the film was confusing at best.
In the theatrical cut of BATMAN v SUPERMAN, plot threads are left hanging, implications are left for viewers to interpret, and on the whole, characters are left with flat, unbelievable motivations. Again, these were flaws that I willingly looked over mostly because I appreciated Snyder's ambition, but deep down, I'd hoped that with the ULTIMATE EDITION -- which boasts around 30 more minutes of "Story and Action" -- most of these problems would be resolved.
Well, the film has had its digital release, and I picked up the flick through iTunes in hopes that it'd fill in the narrative gaps of the theatrical cut.
So did it?
I'd say yes and no.
Yes, on the whole, the film did exactly what I'd hoped. It fleshed out the questionable subplots, strengthened character motivations, and helped give more sense to Lex's complex scheme. That being said, if you weren't a fan of the tone and overall Snyder flavor, this will likely not change your mind.
But let's delve into these differences, shall we? What changes were made in this extended cut, and how did they help the film?
OVERALL SCENE ARRANGEMENT
Number one is the editing. It's worth noting that by editing, I don't necessarily mean the editing within individual scenes, but the way theses scenes were cut together. In the theatrical cut, there were several Luthor scenes that were randomly separated from one another by an irrelevant Lois scene. Likely, the hope was that the audience would feel that none of the plots were left for too long a period, but it only raised red flags -- especially when it was clear that these two Lex scenes occurred right after each other. Why split it?
I'm happy to report that a large percentage of these confusing cuts have been axed. The aforementioned Lex scenes were merged, making for a more coherent flow. While there are some scenes near the tail-end that still suffer from the qualms of the theatrical cut, I'd say about 80-90% of the choppy editing was fixed in this edition of the flick, and it makes for a much better viewing experience.
Now, let's talk extra content.
THAT OPENING AFRICA SEQUENCE
Perhaps one of the most confusing scenes took place near the beginning of the theatrical cut's runtime. It revolved around Lois' involvement with an African rebel general. The interview took a turn for the worse when a photographer that showed up to the base with her was shown to have a tracker on him. A bloodbath ensued -- one that was made all the more confusing by the presence of some random group of...mercenaries?...it was hard to tell.
Superman showed up, rescued Lois, and for some reason the world...blamed him?
It was never entirely clear why anyone would blame him for what happened in Africa, nor was it entirely clear what the conflict was at all. It was a confusing way to set up a story, and even worse, it set up Lois Lane's subplot, which was equally confusing in the theatrical cut.
But in the ULTIMATE EDITION, the Africa sequence is lengthened significantly (maybe about five minutes or so). While that doesn't really seem like a whole lot of time, those extra minutes really added a lot. First off, they set up scene much better. We knew what Lois was doing, who the photographer was, and who he was working with.
The action is allowed to play out as originally intended. Not only were there the rebels and this random group of mercenaries, but there were a couple other parties involved that were unceremoniously cut from the original film. I won't go into how those parties played into the director's cut, but their non-involvement in the theatrical cut left a gaping hole in the sequence and made for a confusing mess.
Finally, in the ULTIMATE EDITION, Superman gets involved a lot sooner. He ends up taking out a couple a missiles that were fired by the CIA in attempts to cover up their botched mission. Local villagers will have no doubt seen the Man of Steel in the sky above. Then, in the aftermath, burnt bodies are seen everywhere, and all the arrows seemed to be pointing at Superman as the main suspect. It doesn't help that all reports imply that Kal-El had his hand in the violence.
Makes a bit more sense that the world would blame him, doesn't it?
While the mercenary's involvement in the scene is still a bit confusing, in the ULTIMATE EDITION, it's okay, since it's supposed to be a mystery who these guys are. In fact, that becomes the main point of Lois Lane's subplot, and the whole reason we're supposed to care about what she's doing in the first place. The only problem was that her scenes were largely left on the cutting room floor and seemed to ultimately lead nowhere. Thankfully, that's fixed in the ULTIMATE EDITION.
LOIS LANE'S SUBPLOT
In the ULTIMATE EDITION, Lois' motivation was made clear. Who were these mercenary soldiers? Were they given their ammo and weapons from the U.S. government in a botched mission? That seems to be a possibility. After all, we did see them in the opening scene, so there was some involvement from them on some level.
In the theatrical cut, many scenes of her investigation were truncated, and many scenes were cut out altogether. For the most part, we got the meat of her subplot, but it was the bare minimum, and the actual conclusion we were supposed to draw from each scene was left for us to interpret.
In the ULTIMATE EDITION, we see more of her research on the bullet -- which involved actress Jena Malone -- and what its origins could mean. By the end of that, we realize that LexCorp was involved in its manufacture. Not a huge surprise, as this part was in the theatrical cut, but it was made a lot clearer in this cut. The big thing here, however, was its relation to Scott McNairy's wheelchair.
For those who don't remember, McNairy's character lost his legs during the assault on Metropolis at the beginning of the film, and is recruited by Lex to testify against Superman. It all ends up being a big ploy, and McNairy ends up blowing himself up during the hearing.
In the pivotal Lois scene, she discovers a few things. One. McNairy's wheelchair was made of the same material as the bullet, linking it to Lex. Two. The chair also coated off the bottom with lead, making it impossible for Superman to see. This is a big deal, since Superman spends a great deal of time in the film grieving over the fact that he should've been able to see the bomb. Surprise. It wasn't his fault. And three. Lois discovered that McNairy's character was NOT privy to the plan to blow up the hearing. While at his apartment, she realized the man only just went grocery shopping, and therefore had no intention of dying.
This was a fact that most audiences could've inferred, but it was never confirmed.
All in all, this investigation in the ULTIMATE EDITION gave a lot of extra needed information to the audience that would've made the film's events all the more meaningful had they been known. But Lois wasn't the only who got shafted in theatrical cut.
CLARK KENT'S SUBPLOT
Believe it or not, one of the big casualties was also Clark Kent himself -- who makes up half of the film's title!
One of the problems some had with Superman in the film was that he was just there. He was reactionary to everything that happened in the movie. Yes, it was clear from a couple of scenes that he sort of disapproved of Batman and his tactics, but there was very little weight to that. It almost felt like he felt that way simply because he was supposed to feel that way.
In the ULTIMATE EDITION, Clark Kent gets an entire investigatory subplot, where he goes through Gotham, tracking the wake of destruction that Batman leaves in his path. It's through these scenes that Clark sees the dark underbelly of Gotham, and gives the audience an opportunity to believe his motivations.
Ever wonder why Superman randomly interrupted Batman's chase in the middle of the film to tell him the Bat was dead? It was an action taken by the Man of Steel after seeing the repercussions of Batman's vigilante ways. Between those affected by Batman and the photos Kent received regarding Batman's branded victims, which ultimately meant a death sentence in prison, it makes sense that he would take some action.
LEX LUTHOR'S PLAN
Now let's talk about the big one: Lex's plan.
Many felt that his plan made absolutely no sense, and while I'd argue that it did made sense, I'd agree that a lot of logical inferences need to be made by the viewer in order to see it. That is largely fixed in this cut. Let's start with Lex's character.
First off, the whole "daddy issues" aspect of his character was always in the theatrical cut, but it never seemed to make the impact it needed. In the ULTIMATE EDITION, certain scenes are lengthened to include more ramblings about Lex's father, making his abuse as a child all the more clear, as well as the unhealthy things Lex did during the grieving stages following his father's death. It informs his personality quite a bit, and drives home his inferiority complex all the more (not to mention his possible persistent complex bereavement disorder...my fianceé is a psychologist...). To me, this more than justifies his reasoning for enacting his plan to take out Batman and Superman.
But what about the plan itself? In the theatrical cut, there were a lot of "random" scenes with stuff happening. On the whole, it was unclear who these characters were, why they did what they did, and how it affected the plot. In the ULTIMATE EDITION, it's made clear that the mercenaries at the beginning are Lex's henchmen. These henchmen are carrying out Lex's wishes to follow Superman with a string of violence. That's what they did in Africa, that's what they did when they told that African woman to lie to the media regarding her "dead family."
That's right, there was a whole subplot revolving around the woman who said Superman killed her family. Apparently, she was paid by Lex's henchmen to do so. What's more, she came forward with the truth to the senator moments before the hearings. So in that scene when Lex and the senator meet in front of the courtroom, the senator knew exactly what Lex had done and was likely ready to take further action. This adds a lot more meaning to her phrase "today is a day for truth."
Lex also works double time to make sure Clark Kent thinks the worse of Batman. As mentioned above, Clark is involved in an investigation of his own. During that investigation, it's revealed that when Batman brands a man, it's a death sentence in prison. Well, it turns out that Lex is behind that as well. In the ULTIMATE EDITION, it is made clear that Lex pays men in prison to kill those men with Bat brandings.
In short, with the theatrical cut, Lex's plan seems nebulous and coincidental at best, but in the new cut, you can clearly see the strings the criminal mastermind is using to move his proverbial pawns into a play.
So what does this mean as on the whole? Is it worth watching?
I'd say that if you were okay with the deconstruction that Snyder was attempting with the film, but had some major problems with the execution, it's worth seeing. It's a slow burn of a movie, but you may appreciate the actual care Snyder and company put into the narrative to make something of a complex political thriller.
However, if you're someone who was immediately put off by the tone of BATMAN v SUPERMAN, and hated that he'd turned these characters into dour, dark versions of themselves, this cut won't likely change your opinion.
What about you? Did you have a chance to see the theatrical cut of the film? If so, what did you think of it? Let us know int he comments down below!